First Read For Feb. 14


BDS activists disrupt Israeli’s speech at Columbia University

Activists of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement (BDS) disrupted a lecture delivered last night by Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, at Columbia University.

According to the website, the “vociferous activists,” carrying signs that urged boycotts against Israel, drowned out Danon’s speech to the chants of “Free Palestine, from the river to the sea,” “Israel is a terrorist state” and “Israel has no right to exist.”

Shortly thereafter, the website reports, “they barged their way into the theater to prevent it from going ahead. Throughout the attempts to muffle his lecture, the pro-Israel students responded with their own booing against the hostile BDS crowd, before the latter were duly removed and distanced from the lecture theater.”

Jews in Russia fear human rights crackdown

The Jewish community in Russia is upset by the government’s expulsion of Rabbi Ari Edelkopf and his wife, Chana, Chabad emissaries in the Black Sea city of Sochi, the Times of Israel reports.

The couple and and their seven children were ordered to leave the country “after authorities flagged Ari Edelkopf as a threat to national security — a precedent in post-communist Russia that community leaders call false and worrisome, but are unable to prevent,” according to the paper.

The paper reports that the expulsion, “occurring amid a broader crackdown on foreign and human rights groups under President Vladimir Putin … is to many Russian Jews a sign that despite the Kremlin’s generally favorable attitude to their community, they are not immune to the effects of living in an increasingly authoritarian state.”

Senator: Trump had planned immediate embassy move

A senior Republican senator has revealed that the Trump administration originally planned to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem on the president’s very first day in office – but then took a step back, mainly due to the possible regional implications of such a move.

According to Haaretz, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN),  chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview on Politico’s Global Podcast that Trump at one point was “ready to move the embassy at 12:01 on January 20th. Maybe even 12 and thirty seconds.” Corker, reported Haaretz, “added that announcing the relocation of the embassy ‘was going to be their first move,’ but administration officials have gotten “a greater sense of some of the complexities that exist.”

German politician calls Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame”

Germany’s rising right-wing populist party has voted to begin proceedings to oust a prominent member for calling Berlin’s Holocaust memorial a “monument of shame,” JTA reports. Bjoern Hoecke, leader of the Alternative for Germany, or AfD, in the former East German state of Thuringia, in January denigrated the memorial and suggested that more attention be paid to German victims of World War II.

Frauke Petry, who heads the 3-year-old AfD, said that the expulsion procedure could take quite a while, but that she was convinced most party members would support the move.

Returning to his Jewish roots in Spain

Haim Casas, 34, a 34-year-old native of Cordoba, Spain, who was raised as a Catholic, may soon be serving Spain’s small Jewish community, according to Times of Israel. A convert to Judaism, he was recently ordained by Leo Baeck College in London, and “plans on being the first Spanish-born rabbi since the Spanish Expulsion to serve the approximately 45,000 [Jews]in Spain today.”

Currently, Moroccan-born Orthodox rabbis lead most Spanish Jewish congregations, and foreign rabbis sometimes visit the country’s liberal congregations, the Times reports.

Rabbi Casas’ initial focus will be on developing liberal and progressive Jewish communities throughout Spain

‘Prejudicial and inaccurate’ story about Israel

The HonestReporting Canada advocacy organization has filed a formal complaint with the Toronto Star about a report by Oakland Ross, former Mideast bureau chief, which claimed that Israel’s 2009 military attack on Hamas terrorists in Gaza was meant to “punish” Palestinians … not simply to thwart the thousands of rockets and mortars which were fired on Israeli cities like Sderot and Ashkelon at the time.”

In an article headlined Toronto doctor may soon see justice for his daughters, 7 years after an Israeli tank killed them, Ross wrote that Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Army’s name for the 2009 campaign, “sought to punish Palestinians for almost daily rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. The operation claimed more than 1,400 Palestinian lives.”

“Ross’ statement is highly prejudicial and inaccurate, and was not made in attribution,” according to the advocacy group. “The declared aim of Operation Cast Lead (OCL) was designed to combat the daily Palestinian rocket and mortar fire shot by Gaza-based terrorists.”

What if the Third Reich won WWII?

In the spirit of “The Man in the High Castle,” a two-year-old Amazon Studios TV series about how the United States would look had the Axis powers won World War II, a new BBC program, “SS-GB,” depicts Great Britain “fifteen years after an alternative ending to World War II,” according to Times of London.

The new show features “a sign in heavy gothic script on the door, beneath the Nazi insignia of an eagle atop a swastika,” which reads ‘Metropolitan Polizei’ …  then, in smaller letters, ‘Metropolitan Police.’”

“This is Scotland Yard in a parallel universe,” the paper reports. .

Holocaust-denial books available on Amazon

Amazon has been criticized for selling books that promote Holocaust denial and fascist propaganda, according to London’s Sunday Times. The paper reported that it had found “dozens of books on the online retailer’s UK site promoting the false assertions that the Holocaust was exaggerated or completely fabricated.”

Titles available for sale include “The Myth of Extermination of the Jews; Holocaust: The Greatest Lie Ever Told,” and “The Hoax of the 20th Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry.” The books have been given four stars by readers on Amazon.